(Adds quotes and later matches)
Nov 25 (Reuters) – Brothers Elias and Mikael Ymer comfortably won their singles rubbers against Canada as seven-times champions Sweden made a roaring start in the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid on Thursday.
The tournament began on Thursday with 18 finalists set to compete in six groups of three across three cities — Madrid, Turin and Innsbruck. Eight teams qualify for the knockout rounds and the final taking place in Madrid on Dec. 5.
Elias eased by Steven Diez 6-4 6-2 before younger brother Mikael enjoyed a 6-4 6-4 victory over Vasek Pospisil. Andre Goransson and Robert Lindstedt made it a clean sweep for Sweden with a 7-6 (5) 6-4 win over Pospisil and Brayden Schnur.
Mikael was impressive on serve, winning 80% points on his first serve and facing just one break point.
“I tried to stay in the moment and tried to enjoy it. At the end it’s just a game, even if it’s a lot we are playing for,” said the 23-year-old, who is ranked 93 in the world.
“When you play someone like Vasek who’s so good in his offence it doesn’t give me, especially with my toolbox, it doesn’t give me a lot of other options then to try to counter.”
Former U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic and Borna Gojo gave 2018 victors Croatia a 2-0 lead over Australia in Turin before compatriots Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic completed the sweep in a doubles dead rubber against Alex de Minaur and John Peers.
Gojo fired eight aces to secure a 7-6(5) 7-5 victory over Alexei Popyrin, who is 215 rungs above the Croatian in the ATP rankings, while Cilic came back from a break down in the third set to edge past de Minaur 6-1 5-7 6-4.
“This is great path for me for going forward for next matches,” said Cilic. “If I can build up on this, build up on this form, it’s going to be fantastic.”
The Czech Republic’s Tomas Machac caused a huge upset on his Davis Cup debut when the 21-year-old, ranked 143 in the world, beat Richard Gasquet 7-6(3) 6-2 to give his side a 1-0 lead in Innsbruck before the French side rallied back to win the tie.
Gasquet fired more winners at an empty Olympiahalle arena, which has no fans due to Austria’s reintroduction of a COVID-19 lockdown, but the 35-year-old made several unforced errors and allowed Machac to win five games in a row at one point.
Adrian Mannarino levelled the tie by downing Jiri Vesely 6-7(1) 6-4 6-2 before Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut handed France a 2-1 victory following a 3-6 6-4 6-3 win over Jiri Lehecka and Machac.
Defending champions Spain begin their Group A campaign on Friday in Madrid when they take on Ecuador. ATP Cup winners Russia are also in their group, with world number two Daniil Medvedev and number five Andrey Rublev in the team. (Reporting by Rohith Nair and Dhruv Munjal in Bengaluru and Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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